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Uruguay – Uruguay Court Decision highlights need for reform

By - 29 October 2014

The Head of The Uruguayan Casino Control Board Javier Chá has condemned a recent decision made by a local municipal court in capital Montevideo.

The decision annulled a move by the municipal government which would have forced a local bar owner to withdraw slot machines located from their premises. According to the court, the exploitation of slots is a legal and the government has no right to prohibit it.

According to Mr. Chá, the judgement highlights the need for urgent legislation on the issue – something which the gaming board has been warning about for some time. “The rules governing the operation of gaming,” he told local daily El País are “inadequate and insufficient. There has been a clear need to legislate and adopt a law that clearly establishes the state monopoly, the prohibitions that apply to individuals and the establishment of an appropriate and efficient regulatory framework for what is a delicate matter which generates large volumes.”

The court case began three years ago when the Inspector-General ordered a local bar owner to remove the slot machines from the premises or face penalties. However the owner appealed the decision and it was later overturned in a local court due to the fact that there are no laws in place specifically related to slot machines in small businesses.

Slot machines outside casinos and slot parlours are a growing problem in Uruguay. Although there are no official figures it is estimated that there are around 20,000 illegal slot machines in Uruguay which are located in shops and small businesses. Combined they generate around US$3.2m a week.

The government is currently considering a new law which would impose heavy fines and even jail terms for those found to be operating slot machines without a licence once the new law is passed. As well as combating illegal gaming the project aims to provide a comprehensive framework which would see a major restructure when it comes to the way gaming is controlled by the state.

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